SEATTLE, Washington, October 25, 2010 The Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) today announced a $5 million grant to Seattle-based Omeros Corporation (NASDAQ: OMER) to discover, develop, and commercialize new drugs to treat a variety of major diseases. With successful generation of proceeds through partnering and the sales of drugs in the marketplace, an additional outcome of the grant would be establishment of a new non-profit initiative to advance the life sciences sector and improve health and economic growth in Washington state.
The Omeros team, led by Gregory Demopulos, M.D., will apply a proprietary screening technology to identify compounds that interact with orphan G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs are a family of proteins that are involved in many biological processes, with 30 to 40% of current drugs having their effect by binding to these targets. Of the 363 total non-sensory GPCRs, approximately 240 have known ligands (molecules that bind the receptors), with nearly half of those targeted either by marketed drugs or by drugs in development. Without a known ligand, drug development for a given receptor is extremely difficult. There are approximately 120 GPCRs with no known ligands, which are termed "orphan GPCRs." Omeros' GPCR platform technology could result in new therapeutics to treat conditions as diverse as cancer, obesity, and neurological disorders.
This award is the second made through LSDF's Opportunity grant mechanism. Opportunity grants support extraordinary initiatives outside of LSDF's annual competition cycles that have the potential to advance research or research infrastructure within Washington's life sciences sector. Funded "opportunities" also demonstrate strong potential for both health and economic impact and significantly leverage LSDF funding.
In the event that the Omeros GPCR program achieves commercial success, a portion of the resulting proceeds payable under the grant award agreement will be used to fund a non-profit organization to enhance the competitiveness of Washington's life sciences sector, improve health and healthcare across the state and beyond, and provide statewide economic returns. This new life sciences initiative, with a mission complementary to LSDF's, would have close working relationships with LSDF and other entities focused on promoting the life sciences in Washington. Omeros, at its discretion, can contribute additional funding to the initiative by re-directing a portion of the proceeds otherwise owed to Vulcan, Inc., which has invested in Omeros' GPCR platform.
According to Lura Powell, chair of the LSDF Board of Trustees, "The allocation of a portion of the fruits of Omeros GPCR commercial successes toward a public purpose in Washington state was an important factor in making the grant."
As currently anticipated, the life sciences initiative will take the form of a new non-profit entity that is expected to make grants to non-profit life science entities in Washington state to both support cutting-edge research and accelerate the translation of such research to public benefit. The organization could also provide investment capital for Washington-based, early-stage companies seeking to move research results into the commercial marketplace. Support of the initiative is anticipated to be bolstered by funding from philanthropic donors.
Lee Huntsman, LSDF executive director, noted that although significant revenue to support the initiative might not be available for several years, the potential for substantial health and economic benefit to Washington through such an effort would be high. "We expect that this initiative, by promoting high quality research and development and translation through commercialization, will complement LSDF's mission and address additional areas such as facilities and investment capital needs."
Huntsman further remarked that the initiative's investments in Washington companies should help them to grow and thrive, thus stimulating life sciences-related employment statewide.
"Omeros is pleased to play a role in the formation of this initiative," stated Dr. Demopulos, chairman and chief executive officer of Omeros. "The leadership at LSDF and Omeros would like to thank Chris Rivera of the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association and John Gardner of Washington State University for their efforts to help chart the mission of the initiative."
Funding for the grant to Omeros comes from Washington's allocation of payments under the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement of 1998, revenues arising from multi-state litigation with tobacco product manufacturers. To date, 39 grants have been awarded through the tobacco settlement and/or donor contributions.
|Contact: Cathyryne Manner|
Life Sciences Discovery Fund